Tuesday, October 06, 2009

One Week Old Furry Rugrats

LOOK! An October post actually in October. I could be on a roll now.
As promised here are the one week old shots - Spryte is feeding them well but annoying the hell out of Robyn with her insistence that she is a house dog and should therefore not be away from her puppies any longer than fifteen minutes. Pretty sure that's not going to wash with Robyn.

Boy 1


Girl 1

Girl 2

Girl 3

Girl 4

Girl 5 - Who was a flea but is now bigger than some of her

Oh and not to be forgotten Mr Cypher turns five years old today. I told him he better start acting like he's middle aged and his prompt response was to shove the closest toy into my hand and demand he get an extra birthday play session. As far as he's concerned you are NEVER too old for toys. I tend to agree with him.

So here's a photo of him at 9 weeks (this is where I get all nostalgic for the puppy days *sigh*)

And here's a photo of him at 5 years of age: Hmmm....looks like I haven't got one. Guess I'll have
to groom him up pretty and take one in the backyard, I'll try and do it at the same time of day and in the same place as the one above so we can compare and contrast. Watch this space!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wake me up when September Ends...

If you are reading this blog for the first time in a while (I know - my fault!) you might want to scroll down to catch the entries for June, July and August before you get to this one!

September...It’s hard to believe that in the space of one month one can experience such a huge tumult of feelings and emotion. Bittersweet seems hardly adequate to explain it – but imagine that term magnified by a trillion and you might come close.

The last day of August was the Monday the 31st – the day Raven saw Amy and Spryte saw Nola.

By the Thursday the 3rd of September Raven was no longer with us.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw her having at least a few episodes each day of upchucking and we were feeding her nothing more interesting than plain rice and cooked chicken by this stage. She still wasn’t going to the toilet properly and I hadn’t been able to keep any tablets down her. Thursday morning she didn’t get up to say hello or be let out when I walked through around 7am. When she did get up, she really had to put a lot of effort in and I could see she was just worn down from it all. Her breathing had become a lot more laboured in the days before and when I watched her eat I could tell it wasn’t easy for her.

They say you’ll know when the time comes. I knew.

She’d had enough – she’d perk up a little at the thought of food but then when it came to it – it was just all too hard. I had to make the call. First we wanted a home visit but neither Nicole nor Cirsten was on at Vet West that day. We had to take her into Osborne Park, I made the appointment for 3pm. In the meantime we took her outside and just let her potter around in her backyard, she had her usual back roll/rub in the sun and checked out her usual spots before she headed back inside. We had some Baskin Robbins ice cream left over and her face lit up at the concept of a bowl of ice cream all to herself (her humans had thus far always been stingey with the ice cream privileges – nothing more permitted than the licking of an empty bowl).

So she quite contentedly plonked herself down and licked away at some premium gold medal chocolate ice cream whilst the other two sat around thinking how unjust this family was right now and surely there was enough ice cream for everyone? I do think Raven, being the kind of bitch that she was, took more than a little pleasure out of the special treatment. Especially when that little upstart Spryte didn’t get any at all. So around 2.30 we headed off.

Amy saw her around 3.30 and took her out the back to put in a catheter. At this stage Raven’s veins were pretty much shot to pieces with all the scarring so IV was really the only guaranteed way to ensure it all went ahead smoothly. With her head resting on my leg and me stroking her gently she went to sleep for the final time. It’s still incredibly hard to think of without getting upset – I don’t remember Bear’s loss being this hard for this long. She had fought so long and so hard against this disease and she was just such a tenacious and strong willed character I honestly didn’t think we’d reach this day for a while. It was quite shocking to see how fast the disease progressed when unchecked. But I guess two and a half years after initial diagnosis is indeed ‘a while’.

I miss her badly and there won’t ever be another Raven. Tim and I were a little staggered by the messages that came in from all over the country – I have kept and saved over a hundred messages of condolences. She clearly was a memorable dog to more than just her immediate family. Raven took me to such great heights really – not just in dog training and agility. She made it possible for me to see how exhilarating and thrilling running a course could be – she showed me the best of the Border Collie's trainability with her never give up attitude, her willingness and her desire to just DO.

She sure as hell frustrated the hell out of me at times, reduced me to tears and just kept me coming back for more because what can you do with a dog that will just never quit and is happy to just keep going and doing for as long as you want to. So selective with her friends and completely disdainful of the majority of the canine species she was also discerning when it came to her humans showing her affection. Never a cuddly, smoochy kind of dog, she would assess early on if you warranted the privilege of giving her a pat or a hug. Some people were found wanting.

One of the messages I received that stands out in my mind because it just summed Raven up so succinctly was this:

She was a bitch, she had allergies, she barked, she didn't like other dogs, she had to wear a bucket, she knocked bars, she was the boss and for these reasons you will never forget her.

It’s all true and it made me smile even whilst I cried. She taught me more in those 9 and a half short years of her life than I have ever learnt about dogs and training. I’m determined to take what she’s taught me and put it to good use with whatever other dogs I am fortunate enough to share my life with, it’s only fitting. Raven’s ashes are now in a wooden box, much like her father’s and she sits side by side with him on our sideboard. The inscription on the metal plate reads

“Raven” 07.03.00 – 03.09.09 Here for a good time not a long time – run free with Bear and give them hell girl.

I’ve had a few people email me after reading Raven’s story on the blog here, they have dogs that have just been diagnosed or they know someone whose dog has the disease. All I can say to these people is that you should do all you can with the resources you have. That is all your dog deserves and I would not trade these last two and half years we’ve had with Raven for all the tea in China as the saying goes. The quality and joy these dogs bring to our lives cannot be measured in dollars or cents, their companionship and their friendship is not something you could ever quantify. Their presence in our lives is not something we should ever take for granted. And now before I get all far too invested in the raw emotion of this topic I should move on.

Spryte - a couple days before she whelped

September 29 saw the arrival of seven brand new border collie puppies into the world. Seven Sprytelets to be exact. So you can see what I mean by the bittersweetness of this month. Spryte whelped at the surprisingly convenient time of 9pm on a Tuesday night and finished whelping all seven puppies by about midnight in what was a fairly easy and uncomplicated first time whelping for her. She took to motherhood like a duck to water and has decided that yes, she quite likes puppies when they are her own.

Random photo of Spryte - March 09 - BC Nationals

She gave birth to five girls and two boys, all black and white and fairly darkly marked apart from two who are all traditionally marked (white collar, normal white blaze, white stockings on the front legs and white socks on the back). They are five days old as of now and the pictures below were taken no more than a day after they were born. They are at Robyn’s place and there they will stay till they go to their new homes. Of course everyone’s asking if I have picked one out yet and the answer, understandably is no. If for no other reason other than we have no idea if there is a pup in there that will be suitable. I’m not in any hurry because to be quite honest training Spryte up for the Nationals in 2010 is going to be the priority, along with Cypher. We shall just have to wait and see.

I will probably upload week by week pics here of their progress. It’d be nice to have a record just in case we do end up with one. The timing is pretty good too I guess – given that I’d be two weeks away from holidays when they’re 8 weeks old. But we shall see – I met their dad Liam in Canberra at the second Border Collie Nationals. He seemed like a very friendly, outgoing Border who is quite confident and busy. His sister apparently is a real fire cracker with tons of attitude and drive. I’m hoping all these temperaments will combine to produce some great agility dogs but we’ll see. Robyn is of course hoping for it all, temperament, conformation, attitude and looks. They shall be an interesting litter to watch grow up but it’s all very early days yet.

Boy 1

Boy 2

Girl 1

Girl 2

Girl 3

Girl 4

Girl 5

Sunday, August 30, 2009

August - Just a blur

August was just kind of a blur. And I’m not sure if it’s because so much went on or it was just one of those non-event months. Raven went onto oral chemotherapy tablets that I could administer. Not many lymphoma dogs had been on this treatment because A. No more than ten dogs had reached this point of treatment (ie three chemo treatment rounds, bone marrow transplant, Lomustine) and B. It only had an extensive record of impact on soft tissue cancers. But there has been some evidence to suggest that it should work similarly on lymphoma as it should work on soft tissue cancer. So we were given 10mg capsules of Cyclophosphamide (complete with rubber gloves to give) plus an anti-inflammatory known as Piroxicam.

I remember emailing a friend around the beginning of August – just giving an update on how Raven was going. Her nodes were, by this stage extremely large – nearly baseball sized and they were clearly affecting her breathing and swallowing. Nothing distressing for her – just you could hear her when she was sleeping and sometimes when lying down awake she would be making this snuffling sound, like she had some sort of respiratory virus that made her breaths sound loud.

She was sticking to a very plain diet too as I really did not want any more stomach upsets. She’d like to come for a walk with us – but she didn’t really want to go too far, she seemed a little surprised at times about how quickly she got tired. But she didn’t want to miss her walks. Despite feeding her as many tidbits and treats from our plates she also didn’t put any weight on and I noticed that she was starting to feel pretty bony across the top of her spine. Yet the scales didn’t show much difference and this is because of the nodes I think.

Around mid August we had another Vet West visit. Raven had been doing okay apart from the weekend of the 15th and 16th. Friday evening she had a series of vomit incidences - nothing more than a small puddle of yellow bile each time but about five upchuck sessions in close succession. I held off on giving her both the cyclophosphamide and the piroxicam that evening. Saturday she seemed fine and well so gave her her usual dinner plus the chemo and anti inflamm. Sunday after lunchtime - around 4 ish she seemed quite unwell - I took her temp and she was 40.5 - took her down to Vet West and saw Cirsten who gave her clavulox injection subcutaneously plus put a catheter in to give her IV dose of cephalexin. She went on clavulox tablets and responded well - they took her bloods and her WBCs were at 18 with neutrophils at 16 - Cirsten said her RBCs were just under normal but her gum colour came good soon after arriving at the vet.

She seemed fine after that trip - her temp went down pretty quickly and he (Cirsten) was thinking it's not chemo med or lymphoma related - just a gut infection of some sort perhaps. He did palpate her abdomen and noticed that she was a bit sore in there but he said the cyclophosphamide could cause that to happen. Of course at this stage you would be checking her abdomen for signs of enlarged liver or any suspicious lumps that could be lymphoma related.

In the last week of August, after I was convinced that she wasn’t having any stomach troubles again and she’d finished her course of Clavulox tablets I started her back on the cyclophosphamide and the piroxicam.

I booked in to see Amy for Raven on the Monday – just for a physical check up and also to discuss changing over her meds. That same day – in a bid to get the most out of my visit to the Osborne Park clinic on the other side of Perth I booked Spryte in for an ultrasound as she was just over four weeks by then and we didn’t have a clue, apart from a slight suspicion that she was looking a little thicker round the middle, about whether or not she was pregnant.

So we saw Amy first and really there wasn’t a lot to say. She felt Raven and did say that she thought her liver felt larger than usual. We changed from the Piroxicam to the Prednisolone and I took another bottle of cyclophosphamide tablets. Raven looked okay then – had blood taken again to check for indicators of abdominal lymphoma (the bloodwork showed signs of lymphoma involvement) and she seemed as well as could be expected. As Amy said – they really had no more rabbits to pull out of the hat when it came to slowing this disease down. I remember just feeling really blank at that stage, like I was some detached observer, dully going through the motions. She wasn’t going to beat this disease and we had done literally everything we could do.

I left Raven with the Oncology staff as I walked Spryte through for her ultrasound. If ever there was a day I was feeling a little bipolar in the way my emotions were rolling through me this was it. Because there on the table, in this darkened ultrasound imaging room, with nurses gathered round I watched the monitor as Nola found 7 little heartbeats thrumming away inside of Spryte’s little tummy. Yet there out the back was the canine love of my life sitting waiting for me with this disease inside her that we could no longer beat back. The world is just a strange place sometimes.

We got some hard copy images of the little Sprytelets and I was happy to email Robyn that good news. In the meantime I tried to get Raven back on her meds properly so we could start the prednisolone.

I guess the only other newsworthy mention of this month is that I’ve joined up for softball again and started training. This will be my second season and I’m looking forward to it. Managed to pick up the batting award for last season (how I really don’t know but I am assured that it is done on stats only from the games you’ve played) so that was cool. I guess my main weakness in this sport is accurate throwing. I have a tendency to overthrow a lot. Then when I try to not over throw the balls go short....it’s all still a bit of a mystery to me but I do like batting. A lot. Got myself a bat and everything. Nothing quite as satisfying at the end of a teaching day, as to go out and whack some balls as hard as I can. Make of that what you will. *g*

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July - that's it...half of 2009 is OVER

July was the month that saw Raven compete in her last trial ever. At the Cloverdale trial she had a play in both the Masters Jumping and Masters Agility class and she looked good. We didn’t get a clear – I think in the back of my mind I had this feeling that this would be her last trial and that I didn’t want to put any pressure on her to get her to go superfast or turn tightly so my handling wasn’t at the usual standard. But the videos show that she did indeed have a ball and was still looking free and happy and running her contacts like usual plus she kept all her bars up (knocked one poorly handled rear cross in MJ) and never flagged or looked tired.

I just knew with the nodes being the size they were, with nothing left but oral chemotherapy treatments to us, largely untried treatment as well that had so far shown little effect on the progress of the disease, that she wasn’t going to have the energy for agility much longer.

I remember feeling really positive that day though – because she had the previous week been administered a fairly high dose of the chemo drug Lomustine (orally but I had to take her into the clinic for this) and I’d been on edge all week watching her for signs of her being one of those ten percent of dogs who get abdominal problems from it. The trial was on Sunday the 5th of July, she ran around looking happy as anything and it had been at least seven days since the treatment. I started school holidays that week and for that I will always be grateful because I honestly thought I had a dead dog on my hands the next morning. I don’t even want to think about what I could have come home to if I had been working. Raven had thrown up (or had an accident with her bowels) during the night and was a little quiet when I let her out that morning. I was just about to email Ken that morning to make an appointment to see him when Raven stood up on my bed (she sleeps up there during the day) as though she wanted to get down but just looked at the floor like it was some vast chasm that she had to leap. I got up to help her down and when I put her on the floor she just took two staggering steps before she collapsed and went all stiff, eyes totally glazing over. Needless to say I just grabbed keys and scooped her up and had her down the local Vet West within five minutes – she seemed to come to a little bit on the drive over but I could tell she was still completely out of it by the time we arrived. Her temperature was 41.5 degrees! Normal is about 37.5 to 38.5.

The vet was shocked by it and I was just thinking how can her brain not be fried at this rate? They put her on a drip immediately and after taking bloods then started IV antibiotics, a combination of three different ones that were the maximum triple attack they could use. A combination of Clavulox, Baytril and one other whose name escapes me right now. She responded quite well to that and her temp came down – but her neutrophils had crashed significantly – sitting at 0.5 and that was a concern the ABs can only do their job if they have some sort of immune system to support!
She had a stomach infection of some sort and the danger was that it could possibly turn into septicaemia. It was a highly stressful day and I was not confident when I went to pick her up that she was fully stabilised. I picked her back up around 6.30pm and by that stage they had gotten two doses of IV ABs into her. I was given tablets to take home as well. When I picked her up her temp was 38.5...by about 9pm that night it was 39.5 and I was getting concerned.

By 11pm when her temp hit 40.5 I called it and took her into Murdoch Emergency. We waited a long time to see the Vet and he took blood to check her neutrophils and basically they were still sitting at 0.4. As he said all he would do would put her on a drip but with the way her immune system was compromised he said if it was his dog he wouldn’t want her around this many ill dogs. So I took her home and was relieved to see that her temp eventually came down again.
What then started was a succession of four day visits to Vet West to get a dose of IV ABs into her each day. It was a long week. And not one I’d recommend for anyone going on holidays or at any time of the year really. Clearly the Lomustine was going to cause some issues for her and the effect on the nodes had been very short lived.

I didn’t take her back to see Ken till the next month because most of July was taken up with just making sure she bounced back from the near death experience and that her immune system got a chance to fight back and stabilise her neutrophil count.
In the meantime Spryte FINALLY obliged us and came in season at the end of July. So we bundled her off to South Australia – where she was met in Adelaide by breeder Lyn Harrison of Tullacrest Kennels to go and spend some quality time in Lewiston with a young male Border Collie who goes by the name of ‘Liam’ but is also known as Ch Tullacrest The Ice Man. She apparently was an absolute tart who was more than ready for him and they had a romantic weekend together.

Ha! I kind of suspected she might have been that sort of girl. She’s never been above using her looks to get her way with Cypher – one sashay of her hips in front of him and he drops whatever toy he’s holding and gets this rather lustily excited look on his face. In the meantime she’s swiftly and stealthily moved in and taken whatever toy he had been so enamoured of seconds earlier. And they say dogs don’t do reasoning. I tell you this little tart can think about five steps ahead to getting what she wants. Intelligent, manipulative, sneaky and adorable looking – it’s a fairly evil combination. I think her name should have been Lilith. And so now we wait four weeks to get her ultrasounded. Below are a couple of shots of Liam - the boy she clearly approved of.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I call this entry June however most of you will not be fooled – you know it’s October already but I say just humour me. There’s an awful lot that has happened between June and now and I am not going to cram it all into to one mammoth entry that would likely rival the Lord of the Rings trilogy for length. So I am going to recall June as best my brain can.

Agility wise and dog wise it was fairly quiet month. Which is excellent really because it was big month on the family front with both my parents going into hospital for a long awaited surgery. My Dad went through a whole gamut of tests and it turned out that he was compatible with my Mum – well enough that he could donate a kidney to her. It’s quite astounding when you think about it, two people with no blood relations can still donate organs to each other. My Mum had been on full peritoneal dialysis for over two years and was up to four times a day in terms of her dialysis. The surgery was on Monday June 15th and it went without any complications whatsoever. Dad was out by the following Wednesday afternoon and Mum was released Saturday morning. It such a huge and momentous event, especially for my Mum and yet it just seemed to happen like this was any typical kind of everyday surgery – which for the kidney ward Nurses and Surgeons I am sure it is but the effect is anything but mundane or ordinary. I half expected bells and whistles and a party fanfare because really this surgery has now extended the life span of my mother by at least a decade, probably more. And the quality of the rest of her lifespan has been immeasurably improved so that she is no longer a slave to a dialysis machine. It’s somewhat phenomenal when you really sit back and think about the implications of such a surgery.

Of course Dad’s status has been elevated considerably – no longer just Super Dad he’s pretty much SuperHERO Dad. We try not to repeat this within his earshot because we don’t want him getting a big head over this. And as this is a retrospective blog (hmmm I like that word – Retrospective – probably too much) I am happy to report that despite a rocky road there for Dad after the surgery during the recovery period (during which he managed to get in another hospital visit to get his gall bladder removed – he has clearly felt the need to catch up on a entire lifespan of avoiding hospitals all together) he is back to working full time and going to the gym (one might say obsessively but I just think he’s abnormally disciplined) and returning more and more to his usually fit and sound self. Mum has also done remarkably well, her follow up blood test visits now becoming less and less frequent – the catheter for the peritoneal dialysis has been removed and she’s even talking about going back to work part time. So far it’s all been fairly smooth and complication free and you have to really remind yourself that this whole process is still quite an amazing feat of medical science.

Trial-wise June is pretty damn quiet. Firstly Spryte is due in season this month. So I didn’t enter too much believing that should would be in fairly soon. The evidence that supported that belief was in the fact that she’d had two seasons already pretty much EXACTLY six months apart. I had her pegged as a thankfully regular coming in season bitch. Of course she must have heard the muttering and decided to shake things up and not come into season till well into July! Females...sheesh. So she has not been in any trials past July 25th. And even in those last few trials she has only been entered in Jumping whilst I work on her contacts again. She’s been doing lots of contact work in the backyard and at training throughout June and most of July.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

*Blink* Where did April go? Wait? Is that June coming??

This is my April post masquerading as a May post. Better late than never. That could be phrase that ends up on my epitaph but as long they add AND WAS AWESOME WITH IT I have no problem with this. So April let’s see. *Rummages through pages of the diary* Raven’s last chemo treatment (in her third round of the protocol) was on May 29th. That was her treatment #16. She came out of remission the week before that. Or at least that’s when I got them to do a fine needle aspirate to confirm my thoughts on her. Her nodes are up but they are not huge. Amy said she had a higher percentage of medium sized cancer cells (lymphocytes) but that her large cancer cell percentage was still quite low. Basically when I picked her up from her last treatment my instructions were to just keep monitoring her, keep her as healthy and as active as I usually do and if there are any signs she’s feeling the effects of cancer then to bring her in for a consult and to discuss where we go from here. Options include chemotherapy tablets, a three weekly cycle of inpatient visits and various other possible drugs/ chemo therapy agents can be tried.

May 13th saw Raven pass her second year anniversary of her diagnosis. I felt grateful that day for what extra time I’ve had with her, but I know now is just borrowed time really. I still hope that we might see her tenth birthday but the rational part of my brain knows that this is probably unrealistic. It’s pretty much a wait and see game but with the waiting part exchanged for let’s give her every quality of life we can. She still loves her walks, her treats, her special dinners, her playing on the agility course, her ambles round the Dogswest grounds and her propensity to attempt mind control of anyone with a tidbit in their pocket or sitting at eye level consuming what she clearly sees as food meant to be shared whether it be ice cream, toast or spaghetti. She still gets poopy if she thinks Spryte is getting a little too much attention, if Cypher is overly rambunctious or there’s a hint of nail clipping or baths to be had. She still acts like a puppy when we come home and sings us a happy welcome yodel from time to time. Still the boss of her place though, a mere look makes Cypher back up ten paces and an intent stare makes Spryte decide perhaps that spot on the floor is more comfortable than the couch. She still likes to ride up front in the car and make sure next door neighbour’s cat is not on her turf. And I’m quite sure she gets satisfaction from keeping the birds out of her yard and making sure that any toy with stuffing is suitably destuffed. So like I’ve written before on this blog – we’re taking each day as it comes and if some days she’s more tired than others we just take a break. I do think she’s rather loving the not having to go for chemo each week thing as well.

In trialling news I guess the biggest event from April was our State Titles. I spent a fair bit on entries I must admit with three dogs in – but it was worth it in the end, I had a lot of fun and managed to get all three dogs into finals ending up with about eight runs in the finals! Spryte ended up in Excellent Jumping, Open Agility and Excellent Agility. Raven was in Masters Agility and Open Jumping and Cypher was in Masters Jumping, Open Agility and Open Jumping. The upshot of all those runs was we had one clear in the end in Excellent Agility with Spryte however I over handled the contacts (this is what happens when you have no faith in your dog’s contacts because you have been letting criteria slide) and we finished clear and likely in second place as no placings are given in finals, only wins. Had a great crack at Excellent Jumping with Spryte but she decided an off course tyre was just too tempting. Cypher was going quite well in Open Agility but did his exact same trick as last year in the Masters Agility final and came off the see saw before it even started tipping. And Raven? Well I remember running and laughing on course because it seemed she was having a ball of a time whilst I was busy just trying to keep her vaguely on the right course – I recall starting off well, about half way round things went pear shaped. I think Cypher had a bar down in each of his other runs. Anyway it was a good weekend even without the wins (we did end up with a lot of top 7 place sashes especially on the Friday when the dogs qualified in NINE out of TWELVE runs...Spryte finishing ADX, JDX and ADO titles all on the one night..I don’t think I’ve had a ratio of running clear like that in a while – I mean I guess the BC Nationals was it when we managed eight out of fifteen runs clear...I have no idea how these kinds of trialling days/events happen and I always wonder what I did different to make it happen).

The tyre she was NOT supposed to do...

Versus the tyre she was supposed to do...sp0t the difference!

Her brother Flyte - he's here cos he wins at looking handsome
whilst doing agility at break neck speed.

We missed the next couple of double headers – about three or four trials in total attending a wedding up near Geraldton. It was an excellent wedding though as far as weddings go, thoroughly entertaining and well catered and just very relaxed and comfortable (they had flip flops for every guest so the high heels and shiny shoes could be put to one side) so I didn’t mind missing the trials really. By that stage we were heading into May.

I did attend the Ronda Carter two day seminar held here in Perth, organised by Sue Hogben along with some like minded triallers from over East. It was fantastic. I loved it and I kind of predicted that I would enjoy it because I’ve watched how Ronda handles on videos for a few years now and have always loved her style of handling. This was the first presenter for me who totally resonated with the way I feel comfortable handling dogs on course. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve had some fantastic presenters over here and I can state without hesitation that I have learnt something from every single one of them. However it was great to have someone say – ‘I’d handle it like this’ and for me not to even have to consciously think ‘Where does my arm cue go for this or which way should I be facing?’ It just felt natural. It’s not a system, there’s no set rules you must follow at all times, there’s an understanding that you handle the best way for your particular dog and that you give them all the information they need to do the course fast, efficiently and naturally. I took Cypher and Spryte on the course and found out exactly how much work I need to do (especially for Spryte – Ronda saw Cypher’s contacts and thought they were fine even though four on the floor is not the ideal choice). So that was great and it’s given me a list of things to work on and it’s raised the consciousness I have of using the dog’s natural movement/momentum to the maximum potential for allowing them to know where they are going next. Spryte does not have independent weavers and quite frankly, her contacts suck, out loud. We’re working on those. Apart from an ADAA weekend next weekend she will not be doing any more agility until I’ve retrained those contacts. Jumping yes, but not contacts. We’re gonna start from scratch on them and aim for having her ready by April next year, hopefully earlier if I am disciplined enough. *g*

The following weekend was the Mother’s Day trial in Bunbury. It was also Spryte’s debut in the Masters classes since finishing her Excellent titles at the States. Her very first trial and she won Masters Jumping – outright. It was a height class trial however the quickest in the 400 class was also the quickest overall. Thanks to a friend *yay LINDA!* I have it all on video. She nearly pulled off a Masters Agility pass too...however I was just too far behind her and she didn’t see the broad she was supposed to GO ON to. But it was a great course to run and she had a blast and I was grinning by the end of it anyway. Open Jumping and she was like a manic speed demon through the weaves! She ended up first in 400 and then 2nd overall to Sue’s Nifty. That was also a wickedly fun run to have. Raven was a little off that day and definitely tired by Masters Jumping so we pulled out of that one. Cypher? I honestly cannot remember what he did. I’m pretty sure he had a bar down fairly early in Masters Agility and also a bar in Masters Jumping. I do remember vaguely muttering something about jumping grids and drills whilst walking back to the car with him. Anyway it was a good day and a great day for little Spryte’s debut in Masters Class.

The following weekend was Geraldton. Raven did alright, Cypher did okay and Spryte had the disadvantage of a slow thinking handler who was clearly not up to speed with her speed. Raven picked up a very close to winning 2nd place in Masters Agility the first day and on the second day Cypher won the Open Agility class seeing as how nobody else passed and he only passed because I put him in a down stay in the distance challenge. I kid you not – a literal DOWN! STAY! Whilst I got myself into position – ah yes that was a crazy course. Could never have worked that one with the girls that’s for sure. Raven went clear in Open and Masters Jumping – although with no help from me in Masters since I got lost (straight after running Spryte and losing the course with her too *eye roll*). And that was pretty much it from Geraldton. Spryte had no missed contacts or dropped bars all weekend, we had issues with the stick in the ground weavers and also issues with handler not being on the ball. I blame all the driving – must have lulled me into a far too relaxed state of brain waves. My reflexes were slower than a snail on crutches. My solution? Bring more caffeine next time. Oh and handle better.

Then today...GSDA trial. I only entered them in two runs each. Cypher ran a nice run in Masters Jumping (seventh out of sixteen quallies) knocked a bar in Masters Agility (he took off so early for a bar he must have clearly thought he was going to have the assistance of magically appearing wings), Raven knocked the third from last bar in Masters Jumping and went two better in Masters Agility knocking the last bar after a pretty quick and tidy run. Let me just take this opportunity here to mention a steadily growing peeve of mine at recent trials – call it superstition, call it distraction, call it not proofing your dog well enough over bars WHATEVER – however I am of the opinion that as a spectator (it’s a given that as the actual competitor on course you never even so much as THINK you’re home and hosed) you do NOT celebrate, cheer, congratulate, clap, applaud, give hearty vocalisations UNTIL the dog has crossed that finish line. I truly believe that yes you can jinx the run and yes it can distract the dog and yes it can make adult faces crumple in disappointment momentarily (or for longer...sometimes you just have to let it go) when that bar comes down. I have taken to running that final line (if I have the good fortune of being with my dog or even ahead of it...yes it does happen sometimes trust me) in silence and almost holding my breath. Which, come to think of it, probably explains the extreme panting at the end of it – by me rather than my dog...but I digress. So people – DO NOT CHEER UNTIL THAT DOG HAS CLEARED THAT FINISH LINE! Better yet...wait till they’re back at their crate/car getting jackpotted/treated/praised and having their wonders sung. Okay that’s a little extreme but I am trying to make a point here. Where was I? Ah yes today’s trial. Spryte was giving the Masters Jumping a good bash until she decided she’d go quicker if she’d just go THROUGH this bar instead of over it. Just because she sensed I was in a hurry. Sheesh. Then in Open Jumping the lure and draw of the distance challenge was just far too much to overcome the necessity of doing 12 whole weavers. Ten apparently would do. I disagreed. She saw the error of her ways and did twelve. It was all good.

So next weekend (long weekend YAY!!!!) is the first ADAA trials to be held here in Perth. Three days – stupidly I have about 24 runs entered on each day with three dogs (putting Raven in no more than four per day) and I have a strong feeling I’ll need another weekend to recover from my long weekend. Ahh whatever. It’s fun to run and I’m curious to see the difference between that and ANKC. Also I have the joy of turning 35 happening on Saturday. But it’s okay – I took the Facebook quiz that tells me my real age and it said 14 so I’m feeling much better about my 35th knowing that really I am just a total teenager. Hmmm...wonder what my Wii Fit will tell me is my age? Better go dust that Fit board thing off and find out.

Movies I’ve seen recently: Angels and Demons (recommend it, better than Da Vinci code and prettier city scenes), Night at The Museum 2, s’okay, wouldn’t pay full price for it. Ben Stiller really is quite two dimensional – Zoolander was his best effort I think. Wolverine Origins – saw that twice so would definitely recommend that one. On the wait list – Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation. Have a tonne of books to read including Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of TS Spivet which is about a 12 year old genius mapmaker and his crazy family – one tight lipped cowboy father, a scientist mother searching for mythological beetles and a possibly normal sister (who might not be) and a dog called Verywell who is definitely mad. Sounds like a hoot – plus there’s pictures. I always like the ones with pictures.
Oh and one more thing – Spryte’s hopefully going to be a Mama for the first time this year. Her husband has been picked out and she’s due in season in June. Robyn at Winpara is doing the litter so fingers crossed we might see some Spryte bubs by the end of August or so. If anyone is interested in finding out more email Robyn at her site: http://www.winpara.com

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Raven!

Been back in Perth nearly a week now and have finally found the time to update my blog. I forewarn of much euphoric happiness in this post because yes, our trip was just that good. Better even than the Victorian Nationals last year (Even better than winning three events and making three finals!).
We left Perth around 4.30pm on a Thursday afternoon and the flight was pretty smooth and uneventful (apart from a guy falling unconscious momentarily and a concern that we might have to divert – no chest pains though so he survived just fine) and we landed in Canberra around ten past ten at night. I had ordered a Ford station wagon from the hire company which apparently translated to a Toyota Kluger 4wd. *Shrugs* No extra charge but not quite as roomy in the back as the station wagon so Spryte’s kennel travelled on a slant which was no problem for her – just annoyed me. But the superior driving experience of a nearly brand new Kluger made up for it. Took us around 45 minutes to follow Glenn and Robyn back to our accommodation which was about 35 minutes out of the Canberra CBD (and therefore in another state! We crossed over into NSW on the way!). The Christmas Cottage was great and is probably one of the best places to stay when you have dogs. Between the 8 of us we had 18 Border Collies and 1 German Pinscher and there was plenty of room for them to run around in.

Friday was a fairly laid back day – we trooped down to EPIC (Exhibition Park Showgrounds Canberra) to watch a bit of the herding, scope out the grounds, put up shade and collect numbers. That was all good and then we (Rosanna, myself and the three dogs) took off for a drive towards the Snowy Mountains and visited a very pretty little town called Cooma. I really wish I had taken my camera and taken pictures but it just got forgotten. Anyway this town was gorgeous and we had lunch there and the dogs got to run around a bit before we checked out a few spots for look outs and had some spectacular views. Stopped in at EPIC on the way back after stopping off at the grocery store to pick up a few items to give the dogs another opportunity to stretch their legs. Spryte was the only one going in the show and I soon realised the Canberra red dust was going to mean her bath on Thursday just wasn’t going to cut it for the whole weekend. Canberra grounds are very dry, red, caked and baked clay and dusty. We came home and had a BBQ with some decent scotch filet steak that I filled up on knowing I had 15 runs ahead of me the next day and knowing that I rarely have the time or the inclination to eat anything at trials.
Next day we were up at 6am in order to get our asses into gear quick enough to get down there for 7.30am given the first showing event was on at 8.30 and that people would be walking the first course in agility then. I also had to give Spryte’s legs a clean up with some spray on water and soap, the soap ended up a lovely caramel colour by the time I’d finished but with a bit of talcum powder she was looking freshly bathed again so all was good! Novice Agility was first and none of us were in that but next up was Excellent Agility and it was a nice flowing course that didn’t look to have too many possible problems. Spryte found one though! Deciding to self release on the a frame because apparently she knew where the course was going next, she cut across the front of my feet and took a spread jump backwards instead of heading to her left and onto the seesaw! Instant DQ but I was happy with her run apart from that. Next up was Open Agility and this was nested with Excellent so it was no time before we were walking this one with the distance being a number of jumps on a pinwheel. They started with the 400 height and so Spryte was up pretty quick and I am pleased to say she did this one perfectly, held her seesaw and handled very nicely to go clear and eventually win the class! This is awesome because Raven won this class back at the first BC National in Sydney 2006. Raven also did the course beautifully but I think the first run of the day and she was feeling a touch punchy and decided to apply her brakes a little late on the seesaw the first time and came off it when it was still in the air! After we redid that though she had no issues with any other contacts all day. Cypher was going very well till about 5 obstacles from the end when he hit the weavers for the first time and didn’t quite cope with how springy they were as they were nowhere near as pegged as we have them here and he kinda bounced off the first two poles more than usual and it literally looked like he got sling shotted out of them and missed a gap! He kept weaving completely oblivious! The dag! Took him back and redid them after realising he needs more of a stride check before entering these poles. Apart from the weavers his run was very smooth.
Masters Agility up next and just Raven and Cypher in this one. Raven handled like a dream even with her handler interrupting her flow a little when she pulled her off the right jump and had to bring her round! Raven was heading straight for the spread and for some reason in my head I had “No no! We pull right hard here Rave!” Well yes Simone you pull hard AFTER the spread you idiot! Anyway we ran clear in that one with her doing everything perfectly and it was good enough to win the Masters Agility class at the 2nd BC National! Onya Rave! And on your 9th birthday too! How cool is that?
Cypher did everything I asked and I couldn’t have wanted anything else from him but I think I must have overcompensated (read: got a little paranoid) about the weavers thing because I ended up getting a refusal at the weavers with my dithering about getting him to stride check more – he just ended up barking in my face as though asking what my problem was and are we doing the weavers or not?? Ooops. Oh well you get that...his run was very nice apart from that little glitch.
From there we started the Masters Gamblers class and in the meantime the judges went for lunch and we could walk it as much as we needed to. Spryte was busy up in the showring by then with Robyn and I am pleased to say that from about 42 Intermediate females in that show class she got cut to the top 11. I was just chuffed she made the shortlist! Then I was back down planning for Raven’s course in Masters Gamblers. I was grateful to see no pissy little weave points – so no 4 poles or 6 or 8 poles....there was just the 12. And they were in the gamble with the dogwalk between you and your dog. The trickiest part was getting them on the right angle going into the gamble so that their momentum would take them out to the weave poles. I actually finished my opening sequence quicker than I thought (I had anticipated Raven tiring fairly quickly as 45 seconds is longer than she spends on any course usually) so getting the angle wasn’t a problem in the end and she completed the Masters Gamblers class clear and with enough points and a fast enough time to win! So that’s her second National Masters Gamblers win after taking out the Victorian ones last year.
Excellent Gamblers next and the gamble nowhere near as hard this time so I tried to make sure we got the weavers in twice and did all the contacts twice, Cypher gave me everything and I was absolutely thrilled with it despite a nail biting moment in the gamble section where he nearly didn’t find the dogwalk due to the less than ideal angle I’d put him onto the gamble with! But I just kept up my verbal cues (read:yelling) and he eventually got the message....luckily fast enough to complete the gamble, make enough points go clear and win it! What an awesome day it was turning out to be! Raven had completed two winning runs so far, Spryte had Open Agility and now Cypher had Excellent Gamblers.
Novice Gamblers was next and the gamble this time was completely different – four simple jumps made much less simple by having them span across the middle of the course virtually! It would be a challenge to make sure that A. The dogs didn’t take more than one of them in a row in the opening and B. To make sure that none of those bars got knocked! I came up with a plan for Spryte that steered most of her opening sequence as far away from those jumps as possible but that still accumulated enough points – I didn’t quite get through all of my opening sequence plan (seems the contacts were not quite what they were at the start of the day funnily enough and we had to redo an aframe) however we garnered enough points to pass and just had a minor hiccup with the last jump of the gamble, she’d thought we’d finished but then realised when I was still frantically running the gamble line and arm signalling the last jump that perhaps she had one more jump to do! The last jump was at a different angle so she just didn’t see it in her path. Thankfully she did it in time and surprisingly for me (since we didn’t get all the points we could have) she won this class too! The last half of the day was dedicated to jumping and we started with Masters Jumping. Brian Hillier designed a fast flowing course with a couple of subtle challenges. Raven and I got on the start line and it turned out to be one of those runs that you just want to bottle. She and I were totally in sync and the run was one of the smoothest, tightest MJ runs we’ve done in a while. I knew when we finished that it was a good time and she was more than ten seconds under the SCT. I was kind of grinning like an idiot by that stage, not quite believing the day could go any better. And then Cypher surprises me...I ran hard, really hard and he was with me the whole time on that course never letting me get to far in front of him, his ground speed will never be as fast as Raven’s but with closer handling his turns can be tighter and as a result he finished that run less than a second and a half behind Raven which for him is something special. Ultimately Raven and Cypher ended up in 1st and 2nd place respectively and really? Can’t do better than that. *Is still beaming*
Open Jumping was next and Spryte was first up in that and she felt a little slow through the weavers so I was wondering if she was feeling tired. Anyway she pointed out a challenge to me that I hadn’t recognised when I was walking it and couldn’t see a jump in a side by side jump tunnel discrimination. So I fixed that with Raven but by then I could see the efforts of the previous four runs had taken their toll and she dropped a bar. We finished that course with the one fault and I had never been more pleased with her than that day – she’d had a ball and had worked really hard to give me everything she had. That bar only came down because of a lack of confidence in my directional cues so for a dog who I have spent vast amounts of time on working on her bar knocking this effort today was just absolutely brilliant. Cypher came the closest to a clear on this one, he was four obstacles from home and shot out of a straight flexi tunnel so fast that I was unable to redirect his trajectory quick enough to avoid a refusal on a jump set slightly offside before the last line of jumps to the finish line. Think I must have been feeling tired by then too. It didn’t bother me in the slightest though I must admit...the day had been brilliant enough!
Last run of the day was about 5pm in the afternoon and they were hurrying to get through the runs before the light went. Spryte was in Excellent Jumping. And given her run in Open Jumping I decided she must be feeling as tired as I was by that stage (I had had little sleep the night before and had even consumed a V energy drink during the day which I normally avoid) and so I had given her a small handful of Advance biccies in some water after Open Jumping, hoping that might pep her up for Excellent Jumping. I don’t know if those helped or if she’d just managed to sneak in a super power nap between OJ and EJ but she was firing! We had about 18 obstacles and we finished that course clean and in 20.23 seconds! I think adrenaline was the only thing powering me by that stage and somehow I managed to keep up and a little ahead (the course design did help that – plus a dog happy to run straight out to a tunnel whilst you got your own ass in a better position) and we finished our last run of the day off with a win! Yes, I’m still beaming.
I was a little shell shocked by our successes that day I must admit. I’ve been playing this sport for nearly 14 years now and never has anything gone quite that well all day for me. I’ve had great days for sure and I can recall them just as vividly but this? This was just amazing...and all on Raven’s 9th birthday. A dog currently in remission from Canine Lymphoma and still receiving chemo. Out of the nine events I had entered that day, between the three of them they managed to carry off the first places from seven of them! I’m so happy I got to take them all. Spryte’s improvement from her first trip east back in August last year to now is really quite noticeable and I have to admit that whilst I know she will never be another Raven (honestly I don’t think there ever could be no matter how fast they were) she is proving to be just as much fun to run in her own right as Raven is. When the time comes for Raven to retire I just know Spryte is going to be just as much of a thrill to run as Raven was.
I managed to get some photos of the dogs - thanks to Lara Sedgeman, one of the National photographers and I post them here. For all her agility photos of the Nationals go here:

Cypher looks rather pleased to be free of those weavers!

A four shot Cy On Seesaw sequence - he's really quite polite
waiting for the cue to leave - either that or he's just making
sure we can all see his best side.

I think this was Open Jumping - so not the pretty
jumping style Cypher!

Performing the difficult distance challenge with style!

Cy on the Masters Jumping course - on his way to second place!
Note the improved jumping style on this one!

Cy on the Excellent Gamblers course having fun!

Raven's first run of the day - seems her ABS was not quite
up to par!

So we did that one again - and this time did it right!

Lara took good shots of Raven weaving!

Mandatory dog running photo - complete with shaved hock!
Having a ball on the Masters Gamblers course.

On her way to first place in Masters Agility!

Same jump two different courses! Top one Open Jumping
bottom one Masters Jumping!

Last run of the day and looking a little tired on the
Open Jumping course.

Two shot sequence of Spryte's winning Open Agility
seesaw! She totally looks like one of those frou frou showdogs here!

Spryte weaving!

See what I mean about the Open Jumping feeling a bit slower?

Great tunnel photos - thanks Lara!!

And our last run of the day - no more feeling tired we were
hooning round this one!

So the upshot of this trial is that we came home with a seven brand new Silver Eagle Cool Coats, embroidered with the Nationals logo, a brand new Black Dog trialling gear bag (thanks to Cypher’s 2nd place in MJ) and seven 9kg bags of Purina Pro Plan. No I didn’t bring those back on that plane with me. I managed to sell four thank goodness and bring one bag home (along with a 2kg bag) and only ended up having to give away two of the bags. I’ve sold two of the Cool Coats, I’m keeping three so still have two available for sale if anyone is interested. They retail between $105 and $120 and I’m selling these for $100 each. The National logo on it is quite nice if anyone is interested let me know. Of course I need to show what the coats look like. :-)




The Three Amigos

Now I’m pretty sure that Spryte has her JDX title but it seems I cannot find her cards for it. The cards I’ve found add up to four passes so far. I am going to have to go back through her results to see if I can find them and see if I can find the cards. Or maybe I’m wrong. Either way she has picked up her fourth pass for ADO so only one more to go on that one and she is now into Excellent Gamblers. She has also one more pass to go for ADX. Cypher has one more pass to go for his SPDM title and one more to go for SDX. Raven is now sitting on one pass left for SPDM, three for GDM still (that seems a lot to me but again I can’t seem to locate any more cards) and four for Masters Snooker. The next trial up is another games trial so that will be good to try and finish off some titles. As soon as Raven has her GDM title though I’ll only enter her at big events for that one – 60 seconds non stop at that level of intensity definitely takes it out of her energy wise (not to mention my obvious need for oxygen at the end of those runs and I’m not even doing any obstacles!) so really unless it’s a National or a Royal or a Classic we won’t be doing the GDM class too often.
Since being back the most I’ve done is take the dogs for a run around the Canine grounds so it will be back to training next week, our next big event being the State Agility trial I guess, Friday and Saturday April 17th and 18th. Spryte will need much more repetition on her contacts and further proofing. There are lots of smaller less used skills that we need to work on too. I was very pleased with her start lines all day Saturday, she was in a rock solid sit on all of them and I should remember not to let up on the reinforcement of that during our training sessions. The next Border Collie National is being hosted by the Tasmanian Border Collie club – hopefully in 2012. I just hope it’s in the latter half of 2012 because I’ll need some financial recovery time after doing a trip of around 5 months at the end of 2011, early 2012 to the US, Canada and Alaska. But I must admit I’ve always wanted to visit Tassie and really – what a perfect reason to do so. I’d definitely make it a two week trip at least I’d think. It would be fantastic if they could organise it in school holiday time but that could be just me.

In non-agility related news caught a horror flick last night at the cinemas – Friday the 13th and have to say, for a person who never does horror films usually, I was entertained.
One might suggest I’m easily entertained these days but I beg to differ, I am pretty sure the older you get the harder it is to be entertained by things whether they be people, books, movies, tv or various other past times. Perhaps it is because the genre is quite new to me, cinematically speaking that is. Anyway as far as horror movies go I can see why it broke opening box office records for the horror genre in the US. It did help that it had one of the Supernatural boys in it I suppose but still....worth the $8 voucher tickets we used.
Probably better than My Bloody Valentine as well (sorry Jensen) because there was a definitely much more on the edge of your seat kind of feel to it.

Another hobby I am currently trying to cram into my somewhat bursting schedule is learning the piano. I came home from Canberra to a Casio piano keyboard (yay for Mr Tim! *mwha*) and I am determined to learn how to play my favourite pieces of music.
It could be a challenge because I am not that keen on the actually learning how to read music part but god bless the internet and Youtube for wonderful How To Play videos that show you where to put your hands and fingers. In the back of my mind I’ve always had the impression that it’s a pretty special talent to be able to play the piano but in just these past few days I have come to be just in awe of those world renowned piano players because who knew how hard it is to have your left and right hand doing totally different things AT THE SAME TIME!!!! Honestly you’d think having the whole Gemini thing going on, split or twin personalities that I’d be able to just flounce on in and start playing but no...it would seem something like playing a beautiful classical piece takes practice and a helluva lot of concentration! Who knew!?!! No matter, I shall persevere and probably drive Tim mad playing the same thing over and over but in the end I and my piano playing skills (once I acquire some) shall prevail!